The only way many people can stay in their homes rather than an institution like a nursing home or similar retirement community is to retain the assistance of a homecare agency. Doing so ensures that older adults who need support can stay in the comfort of their own homes as long as it is practical.
Homecare vs. Home Healthcare.
Homecare agencies provide a wide variety of services from medication management, personal hygiene, light housekeeping, pet care and companionship. They do not provide any medical services. Home Healthcare generally does not include as many personal services but can manage the care of an older person who is recently discharged from the hospital or whose health has declined to the point that someone professionally trained can step in to help in a meaningful way. Many times, the latter is paid for by Medicare whereas non-medical services are rarely covered.
Homecare agency caregivers provide a much-needed resource for adult children or other relatives to rely on to assure that their loved-one is receiving the best care possible. That is why it is important that the right person is selected, and a strong partnership is established based on mutual trust and respect from the beginning of the engagement.
Generally, people understand that good communication is key to many relationships. So, why would a caregiver be any less important? Strong communication takes effort and rapport. Whomever is arranging care for the family member should meet with the caregiver (or caregivers if there are multiple shifts or seven-day assignments) and provide them with as much information about the patient as possible. This might include likes or dislikes, background, personality type, special needs and concerns he or she may have. Best is to have clear expectations that are committed to writing. Most professional home care agencies have a very specific treatment plan format that covers all of this. Once established, it is best to set up regular meetings in person or on the phone with the caregiver who can provide status reports personally.
Then there is the whole are of personal preferences beyond the mechanics of living. Your father may not like having the TV on all day or your mother may like to start her day with the newspaper. It is important to share that sort of information with the caregiver so he or she can respond accordingly before frictions develop.
Food choices and housekeeping standards will also ensure that the caregiver has all the information he or she needs to avoid misunderstandings.
If the caregiver reports that your relative seems depressed or is not eating adequately, rely on the experience of the caregiver to come up with a joint solution. Even though you know your loved-one, professional caregivers have worked with other clients with similar concerns and have a broad range of experiences. Rather than telling the caregiver what to do, listen to his or her ideas and arrive at a joint solution. Treat the caregiver as a partner in the process, respecting his or her professionalism rather than simply as a service provider.
Caregiving is not an easy job and can sometimes feel thankless. Do not forget to let the caregiver know of your appreciation for the efforts he or she expends on behalf of your loved-one. Everyone likes to feel valued. And, they respond with a greater level of enthusiasm for serving your loved-one. Periodically check in with the caregiver and ask about what he or she may need. Treating them like a valued household member rather than an employee will build a mutually beneficial relationship that will inure to everyone’s benefit.
There will be a problem one day. Before calling the agency to report an issue, talk to the caregiver first. You will never build a trusting relationship if you file a report without first talking about what needs to be addressed. If you cannot resolve it on a personal level, go to the agency and request a change if that seems warranted, realizing that once you do the chain of trust may be somewhat damaged. Caregiving is usually a long-term relationship. Treat it with respect and care.
Building and maintaining a positive partnership – a bonding – with the people who will take care of your loved-one from the very start will enhance the health and happiness of the one for whom you seek care.